AER Memories of Old
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Forgotten Key
Genre: Third Person Open-World Adventure
Release Dates: 25 Oct, 2017 (Worldwide)
Price: 14,99€ (Steam)
At its best Aer: Memories of Old is a relaxing and serene experience that seems to provide you with plenty of fun too as you'll soar through the skies in the first minutes of the game looking ahead at what seems to be an enormous open world filled with potential secrets to discover. Sadly that feeling will only last for a few minutes before you start realizing what this game is along with the fact that the open world is only there to facilitate the flight mechanic and there's pretty much nothing else to it, as aside from the main objective, there are very few things to make you stray away from the main path. Even though there are over 100 different islands that you can land on, most of them are empty with nothing to do once you actually land on them, as the main content is spread across 3 main areas that will eventually lead you to a temple and the only things that could be labeled as side content are some Easter Eggs that will reward you with an achievement once you discover them, but you don't actually have to do anything, it's just a few things like statues or rare animals hidden away in some of the more remote islands.
You play as Auk, a girl empowered with shape-shifting abilities that allow her to transform into a bird at will, sent on a pilgrimage to the Land of the Gods in order to collect the emblems required to open the Creator's Shrine and stop the world from being absorbed by the Void, or at least that's what I understood from the story as it's very briefly glanced over and only serves as a generic context for this game existing, and on top of that we've seen this type of background story a million times before and there's nothing special to it here. There are 3 different dungeons called temples here which must be unlocked using a key that can be found in the nearby area and each one of them follows the same format of exploration, some simple puzzles, a little bit of platforming and eventually collecting the emblem to then move on to the next one until you've collected all of them. Even though those temples can be tackled in any order you'd like, that doesn't really solve this game's lack of variety problem, as every dungeon feels like a useless chore of walking around for a few minutes since the shape-shifting ability is disabled while inside the temple, so the main challenge of each one is to traverse it and find a way to unlock the door that will lead you to the emblem, but even so, each one of them can be completed in 10-20 minutes, most of which you'll spend just walking around from one puzzle piece to the next one as the solution is almost always obvious, leaving you with lots of pointless walking just to solve it. Once you've gathered all 3 emblems you will unlock the final temple which is the end of the game and without spoiling anything, it's also quite a disappointing ending from both a storytelling and gameplay perspective.
The most prominent mechanic and by far the most fun one is flying around as a bird in order to reach your next destination and maybe stop on some of the smaller islands in between to look for Easter Eggs, but that's pretty much all it's used for as there are no puzzles built around the flying mechanic and no challenges to encourage you to get better at it. Getting each of the emblems follows the same format, flying around the area looking for the key which sometimes may require a smaller puzzle to be solved in order to obtain, to then using that key to unlock the temple where you'll spend the next 20 minutes walking around pressing buttons and then moving on to doing the same thing all over again until the game ends. There is also no complexity or challenge to any of the temples, as all of them are built around having locked doors that require a button or pressure plate to be activated somewhere in order to unlock, something that you'll keep repeating until the final door is unlocked and you obtain the emblem.
There is also no combat as the game is entirely built around exploration and the only weapon/item you'll have is your lantern which is required to activate the pressure plates, but that's only a visual differentiator as you could have them activate without any item and the only thing that would change is the animation. Aside from that, you can also use it as an actual lantern to light up some of the darker areas, but once again this feels like something they forcefully added in for the sake of visual variety and doesn't serve any gameplay purpose. The side content is even more lacking than the main story as the only things you can do are finding some statues or rare animals, which feels like a missed opportunity since the world is pretty big, with lots of opportunities for secret dungeons or side quests, neither of which exist. Since the game is quite short you won't be playing for long enough to get bored by the lack of variety in gameplay, but by the time you reach the end, you'll probably be glad you won't have to walk around pressing buttons anymore.
The game features a cel-shaded art style similar to games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and while exploring the open world will take you flying over some beautiful vistas, once you get into the temples that beauty will start to fade away as you'll end up walking around similar corridors with similar objects placed around them doing the same thing you did before. There are also lots of unpolished areas with pixelated textures, floating objects and inaccurate collision giving you the ability to sink through some solid objects or float above them by a few centimeters as you're stepping on them. The environments are also lacking details and landmarks as aside from the main locations and the aforementioned Easter Eggs, islands have the same generic trees and randomly placed reading tables around them.
The soundtrack adds up to around 1 hour in total with all tunes included which means some tracks may be repeated once or twice, although each temple has its own tune so if you will hear the same music twice it will probably be outside as you soar through the skies, but luckily the tunes are actually very relaxing and fitting the atmosphere of the game, so you probably won't even realize the same track is repeating. There is no voice acting as the dialogue is text-only and the sound effects although a bit generic do the job well enough to suit the atmosphere of the game.
For its 14,99€ price tag you only get 3 hours worth of content with the side content included, so you can easily finish this game in one sitting if you're looking for a quick experience that you can go through in a single day and with that being said considering the generic story and dull gameplay you might want to wait for a sale before picking this one up, but that's entirely up to you.
AER Memories of Old is a relaxing experience with a story squished in just for the sake of having one and dull gameplay that feels repetitive even considering the game's short duration, but knowing all that and setting your expectations accordingly you may still have some fun with this if you're looking for such an experience, especially when you're flying through the skies since that is by far the best part of the game, but sadly it's only used for traversal as the rest of the game consists of walking and interacting with shiny buttons in similar-looking dungeons without any challenge or complexity to the puzzles.